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Simulation of tropical cyclone impacts to the U.S. power system under climate change scenarios

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The links between climate change and tropical cyclone behavior are frequently studied but still uncertain. This uncertainty makes planning for climate change a difficult task. Here we focus on one area of climate-related risk: the impact of tropical cyclones on United States power systems, and we evaluate this risk through the simulation of impacts to the power system under 12 plausible scenarios in which climate change may affect tropical cyclone intensity, frequency, and location. We use a sensitivity analysis based approached grounded in the literature rather than directly simulating from specific GCM output due to the high degree of uncertainty in both the climate models and the climate-hurricane relationship. We show how changes in tropical cyclone activity influence extreme wind speeds, probability of power outages, and the proportion of people without power. While climate change and its impacts are often discussed globally, this work provides information at a much more local scale. The sensitivity of an individual area can be assessed, and the information presented here can be incorporated into planning and mitigation strategies for power systems faced with an uncertain future in a changing climate.

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This work is funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) CMMI Grant 1149460, NSF CBET SEES Grant 1215872, NSF SEES Grant 1331399, and NSF CMMI Grant 0968711. Thanks also to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from which much of the original data was gathered.

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Correspondence to Andrea Staid.

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Staid, A., Guikema, S.D., Nateghi, R. et al. Simulation of tropical cyclone impacts to the U.S. power system under climate change scenarios. Climatic Change 127, 535–546 (2014).

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